Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Financial Blogging - Part I: Content

In a series of articles (how many I have yet to decide!) I will look into some of the does and don'ts of financial blogging.

The first challenge is to select a topic, or core area of interest to you. Ideally, this should be a subject in which you have a good degree of background knowledge, and is best approached from what is familiar. What do I mean by this?

For many this means U.S. markets, but coverage of the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq is saturated with financial blogs with A-listers in those fields well established. Therefore trying to push a new blog into this area is a challenge. If your area of expertise lies in U.S. markets the best tactic is to specialize. Sites like Footnoted.org, 10QDetective are prominent in the field of company report analysis. Dr. Brett Steenbarger at TraderFeed authors the number 1 blog on Trading Psychology. Howard Lindzon brought financial vlogging to the fore with WallStrip. While Brian Shannon at AlphaTrends has the number 1 financial vid-cast on YouTube.

How can their success be measured?

Studies of webtraffic is the obvious way, but checking the blogrolls of A-listers like Barry Ritzholtz. WallStreetFighter, and TraderMike will give a better picture as to what appeals, what works and more importantly, what's absent. You will notice many of the aforementioned sites on their blogrolls (and quite a few not listed here). Blogs with broad appeal will get mentions in main stream media outlets like WSJ (and here), or Forbes.

What about me, how can I find a topic?

First port of call should be to check what's out there. Start with a few top bloggers and follow their links. What's missing? Why are those blogs there? It will be readily apparent coverage of the main indices is well established, but there is still room for sector specialists (e.g. semiconductors). But for these to be successful it may be necessary to take the best ideas of the leading bloggers and combine them into a single entity. So taking a semiconductor blog as an example. Your blog may have a vlogging or podcast component; an end-of-week review of sector performance with respect to the broader indices; featured analysis of component stocks with fundamental and technical analysis;

What should I write about?

Sometimes the answer is not as obvious as you may think. Charles Kirk published an excellent piece on a survey he did of his members. He made two excellent (and apparently conflicting) statements:

"> The top five favorite members' only offerings are: stock screen machine, after hours posts, premarket posts, Q&A ask me anything, and stock filters#

> The top 5 least favorite members' only offerings are: guess this stock, extras (golf, family, trips, etc.), retirement investing posts, book reviews, and the model retirement portfolio"

Readers were not invested in individual stocks per se, but were interested in lists of potential stock candidates which fit predefined criteria (the 'stock screen'). This makes sense; nobody wants to pile into a single stock at the same time as other readers, but when there is a choice of stocks there is a reduced risk from reader rush into a single stock, so readers may be willing to pay more attention to those stocks (Stockbee's blog is a good example of this style of stockpicking).

Okay. This is all well and good if you are looking at U.S. markets, but what about other markets?

Luckily, this is where the void begins. Primary coverage of European, Asian, and Latin-American markets is relatively low with little (if any) of the specialist coverage now found in U.S. markets. I did a quick and dirty search on Technorati for blog coverage on some of the main markets. The results in the table give the number of Technorati hits for each of the listed terms. Coverage of U.S. markets is over 10 times that of its nearest rival, the U.K. FTSE. This lack of coverage means opportunity for bloggers looking to establish their credentials. As blog coverage (and audiences) of non-U.S. markets rise, opportunities for diversification as evolved in U.S. market blogs will present themselves.

Is it too late to start?

No! It's never too late if you get your planning right. Timothy Sykes took his blog from 'nowhere' to A-list status in less than a year. He hit his 1 millionth visitor after 6 months. Contributing to his success was giving financial bloggers a free copy of his book, combined with an in-your-face approach to blogging which broke from the staid formula common in financial writing. His Alexa ranking speaks for itself:

Declan Fallon is contributing to the development of stock alerts, stock charts, and trading strategies for Zignals


John Forman said...

A well developed pair of posts, though I'm curious why you are posting on financial blogs. That doesn't see to be an area of primary interest for you.

Declan said...

Thanks John for the feedback and sorry for the delay in replying.

Financial blogging is my primary interest as author of blog.fallondpicks.com which has a heavy market and stock slant. However, my contributions to Zignals will focus more on the ins-and-outs and processes involved in carving a space in the financial blogging/web sphere, rather than the market itself (which will remain at blog.fallondpicks.com).

Because of the disparate content it is difficult to provide context at this stage of Zignals development. But this will be fleshed out over the course of time.